Note: This essay contains spoilers for the manhwa BJ Alex. Read at your own discretion.
I am no stranger to emotions. I’ve essentially made it my brand to talk about my feelings: how people and things make me feel. I’ve cried in dozens of my videos over fictional characters and their situations. All this to say, I am very comfortable with expressing my feelings and receiving feelings.
I mentioned previously that after fighting it for years, I’ve finally given in to reading boy love manhwas. As I dove head first into the popular titles, I was avoiding a specific one that is almost always ranked number one. BJ Alex. If you consume anything TWOA, then that title is probably on your completed list, and you enjoy it. My people always come through with spectacular taste.
So if I knew that all my faves loved and raved about BJ Alex, why was I avoiding it like the plague? To be completely honest, I first tried reading it a few years ago when I first got into BL and could not get through it. I think I dropped it around chapter 15 because the main character was doing too much for me. Now, how did I end up here, where I’ve completed it and am now writing this?
About BJ Alex
BJ Alex is about a college student Dong-Gyun who is infatuated with a cam star that goes by Alex. One day he goes out drinking with his classmates and gets a little too drunk. He ends up being taken home by a sunbae, Jiwon. Upon coming home with Jiwon, he realizes that Jiwon is Alex.
Even this first chapter was super cringe to me. Dong-Gyun is OBSESSED with Alex. In the second chapter when he makes the connection, Jiwon flips out on Dong-Gyun and becomes a complete asshole. Of course, because of yaoi logic, the two end up hooking up. What follows from there is a tumultuous situationship which is a pretty common trope in media. Jiwon finds himself interested in Dong-Gyun, despite his bests efforts to not be, but still treats him unkindly. Dong-Gyun, not wanting to not be with Jiwon/Alex, accepts the crums he is given for some time.
The situation reaches its boiling point, where Dong-Gyun finally realizes he’s accepting WAY less than he deserves and completely cuts Jiwon off. Jiwon then has the realization that he loves Dong-Gyun, but due to past trauma was pushing him away and acting like a jerk. Queue the redemption arc, Jiwon works to win Dong-Gyun back and after some time Dong-Gyun takes him back. Happy times, the end.
Why I Was Annoyed
So back to me. I suffer from severe secondhand embarrassment with media. It’s been said before how I took months off from the anime Golden Time because a scene made me cringe. I fast-forward through awkward misunderstandings and embarrassing moments. I’ve always been this way.
In the case of BJ Alex, Dong-Gyun’s character embarrassed me so much. I was so put off by how much he pined after Alex/Jiwon, even though Jiwon was an unpredictable jerk. Jiwon’s unpredictability was what made me hold on this second try because I started to have some hope all was not lost. I felt that if I just held on, I would see what everyone else saw and would love the series. And I did.
But what changed my mind ultimately on BJ Alex wasn’t Jiwon, which surprised me. It was Dong-Gyun all along. Initially, I was annoyed by Don-Gyun and his pinning for Alex/Jiwon. I put Alex/Jiwon” here because, in the beginning, Dong-Gyun doesn’t know Jiwon. He is infatuated with Alex and goes into the situationship as a way to get closer to Alex in a way no other fan has. He feels special having access to Alex in this way. As the story progresses, we see Dong-Gyun start to fall for the man behind the mask Jiwon, and as he does, he becomes aware of what he really wants.
BJ Alex Holds Up A Mirror
I realized that my issue with Dong-Gyun wasn’t really about him. I disliked a lot of stories where one character is madly in love with the other. It annoyed me to see someone pine over someone who seemingly doesn’t want them. I now know that this was hard for me to read because in my past life, I have been a Dong-Gyun. Someone who always did the most, receiving little to nothing in return. And honestly, that embarrassed me. And as a result, I felt embarrassed seeing my reflection laid out so clearly in Dong-Gyun.
I’ve always heard in stupid places that the one who loves less in a relationship holds all the power. Rationally, I know this is not true. However, displayed in BJ Alex, it seems true. Dong-Gyun’s infatuation with Alex leads him to be what I would describe as “down bad” for this man. I’ve also discussed this before in my Lovely Complex review where Risa did the most for Atsushi. This being displayed so clearly was hard to stomach because I didn’t want them suffering as I had in the past.
Something that Dong-Gyun had that I didn’t have was courage. As Dong-Gyun realized his feelings for Jiwon, and was growing a backbone on what he deserved, he was not regretful over how he felt. He was in love with Jiwon, and while initially, he let some things slide that he shouldn’t have, he wasn’t ashamed of that. In his love for Jiwon, he realized that he knew how he wanted to be loved and cared for. He realized that he wanted someone to love him as much as he loved Jiwon. Unashamed and unrelenting.
In hindsight, this may seem trivial but to me, it was truly a moment of revelation. I’m in a loving, committed, relationship where we express our love for each other daily in multiple ways. But evidently, I still had my blindspots. I still felt embarrassed by one-sided love and having someone be the first one to be head-over-heels while the other person needs some time to catch up.
I realize now that in my fear of looking stupid over someone, I was dismissing the fact that relationships are different. Just because someone doesn’t fall as hard or as fast as someone else initially, doesn’t mean they can’t fall in love and have a deep and meaningful relationship later. I think that stories like BJ Alex drive home the point that people who are open emotionally and love hard and fast also are deserving of love without having to compromise who they are. Dong-Gyun did not have to change or “tone down” his love, instead, Jiwon had to meet him where he was and did. And that is what love is all about.